Basketball

NBA stars follow Isaiah Thomas home to Tacoma for annual tournament

Boston Celtics' Isaiah Thomas (4) goes up to shoot between Brooklyn Nets' Jarrett Jack, left, and Brook Lopez, right, during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016.
Boston Celtics' Isaiah Thomas (4) goes up to shoot between Brooklyn Nets' Jarrett Jack, left, and Brook Lopez, right, during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016. AP

To cap off what has been an unbelievable year — and possibly the start of many NBA All-Star Game nods — Tacoma’s Isaiah Thomas wants to do something in basketball this weekend he’s never done.

Win his own hometown tournament.

Two years ago, when the Memorial Day Zeke-End Basketball Tournament debuted at Foss High School, his squad lost in the championship game.

Last year, the former Curtis High School and University of Washington standout said he played too much basketball heading into it. Seattle product Tony Wroten’s team captured the tournament title.

“He’s reminded me of it,” Thomas said.

The 24-team showcase tournament, featuring a variety of current and former NBA stars, will start up Saturday and run through Monday.

To see how much Thomas is liked and respected in his fifth NBA season and second year with the Boston Celtics, just look at how many professional players committed to play in his tournament:

From the Celtics — Evan Turner, Jared Sullinger and Terry Rozier. (Avery Bradley would have come, but he and his wife just had a baby).

From his former Phoenix Suns team — Eric Bledsoe and Archie Goodwin (as well as Gerald Green, who played in Miami last season).

From his former Sacramento Kings team — Ben McLemore.

He has corralled many of the guys from the Seattle-Tacoma area, including Jamal Crawford (Los Angeles Clippers), Rodney Stuckey (Detroit Pistons), Spencer Hawes (Charlotte Hornets) and Wroten (New York Knicks).

And, of course, he has drawn many former UW athletes, including Brandon Roy, Will Conroy, Abdul Gaddy and Jermaine Kearse.

“When I ask guys, they do not think twice about being here, so it shows how they feel about me,” Thomas said.

Surprised?

“It is what I expect,” the 27-year-old said. “Overall, I am generally a good person. My former teammates … say I was a pretty good dude. That is the way I am. Ever since I was on basketball teams, people have liked me — liked the way I play, and the way I lead.”

In fact, Thomas admitted he had other NBA players ask to come and play in it, sparking the question — could it grow in the future?

“Maybe in a few years,” Thomas said. “When we announced it for 2016, (sign-up) sold out in a couple of weeks. It says a lot from where it started.”

Thomas will sponsor two teams in the tournament — at $300 a pop. One is Team IT, and the other is Team Zeke. He said he isn’t sure which one he will play on.

As for his season, well — it was a memorable one. He averages 22.2 points, 6.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He was selected to the NBA Eastern Conference All-Star team.

Last week, he told reporters he wanted to play until he was 40.

When we announced it for 2016, (sign-up) sold out in a couple of weeks. It says a lot from where it started.

Isaiah Thomas, talking about his annual basketball tournament in Tacoma

When he is done with basketball, he certainly has shown to be comfortable in front of the television camera. He was asked to be a guest analyst for ESPN during the Eastern Conference finals.

“The TV stuff was great — it’s the first time I’ve done that,” Thomas said. “At the end of the day, I get to talk basketball.”

Thomas will spend much of his offseason in Tacoma — except for a summer camp he has organized in Boston.

“Other than getting knocked out of the (NBA) playoffs,” Thomas said, “it’s been a pretty good year.”

Memorial Day Zeke-End Basketball Tournament

When: Saturday-Monday.

Where: Foss High School

Schedule: Games for the 24-team tournament run on three courts from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily.

Daily tickets: Ages 12 and up are $10, children 6-11 and senior citizens are $3, and children 5 and younger are free. A complementary barbecue will be held for all ticket holders Monday.

tmilles@thenewstribune.com

  Comments